Saturday, December 20, 2014

New Crazy Carl Robinson Book!

For years, I've been waiting to read the third novel, My Parents' Medicine, by Crazy Carl Robinson.  Well, it's still not out, so don't get too excited, but, at least, some of it has now emerged in the form of a nicely-produced chapbook/zine.  Rogue Holler Blues is destined to be an underground classic, similar to CCR's first two books, Fat On The Vine and Bloodreal.  Only CCR's first novel has been published intact.  His second, Dead In The Head, was also excerpted and remixed into Bloodreal.  CCR is a writer similar to Thomas Wolfe in that he does benefit from a good editing job, but this trend of publishing mini-versions of the novels has probably gone too far.  At 48 pages or so, this is a skimpy read, especially given the price.  It would be nice if CCR's next novel came out more or less intact.  I guess to make that happen I may have to publish the thing myself. However, despite the brevity, RHB is a great read!  Even though I know CCR fairly well and thus have some bias, I am always amazed at the greatness of his writing and his ability to transmute the rawness of life into great literature in his own distinctive style of lowercase letters and ellipses.  He's seriously approaching Nobel class at this point, though what he tends to write about might make Alice Munro and the Swedish Academy faint.  Nevertheless, I enjoy it, sometimes too much (there were times reading this that I laughed so hard that I farted).  But it's not just a chucklefest.  He deals with some heavy and uncomfortable topics such as alcoholism, crime, drug abuse, economics, existential loneliness, racism, self-hatred, and sexism.  Underneath the party stories of small town drug dealers and college town rock and rollers is a deeply serious look at life in 21st Century America.  RHB begins with the narrator picking up where he left off at the end of Dead In The Head, trying to balance his duties to elderly parents with having a career and a lovelife.  If you've ever read a novel and wondered why none of the characters have to ever stop to use the bathroom, then you'll enjoy CCR's work.  For some readers, learning about the narrator's brown washcloth will fall into the realm of too much information, but others will enjoy a narrator who seems to relish sharing intimacy with his readers, even when it's not very pretty.  Some of the cast of characters from CCR's previous books, including a version of myself, return.  This novel finds them entering middleage (the narrator attends two weddings and wonders when his own will be) and settling down while still trying to hang onto their younger ambitions and amoral behavior.  Some such as The Big Handsome and Dale-The-Tail don't seem to want to leave the past, causing much mirth (The Big Handsome) and sadness (Dale-The-Tail) for the reader.  The narrator himself settles down into a regular job by the end, which is where the story presumably ends (some of the story is told out of sequence and there are references to events presumably described in the parts not published).  CCR has said that he has stopped writing, but I don't believe that for a minute and look forward to the next novel (which, one hopes, will be published more intact than this one was).  His novels seem to be turning into a hillbilly version of Proust's oeuvre.  He's also better than Proust, though readers with sticks up their posteriors will tend to disagree.  Any fan of Charles Bukowski or John Kennedy Toole will recognize that the river of true American literature flows right through CCR's Rapidan reflections.

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